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Pete and Gerry's Pasture

What are Pasture Raised Eggs?

It’s a question we’re getting more and more. What does the pasture raised eggs label mean? How is it different from our Free Range pastured hens? And why aren’t Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs pasture raised?

We wrote a longer blog post about this, a little over a year ago, titled ‘Why We Are Free Range and Not Pasture Raised.‘ But, as the question continues to come up, it may be time for an update on the issue.

Humane Treatment of Animals

First of all, we support humane treatment for all farm animals, including hens obviously, and we sincerely hope that people will only buy free range and pastured raised eggs in the future. The Cage Free standard has already been co-opted by factory farms. It is better than the battery cages that still dominate the industry today, but only marginally better, as the hens are essentially confined to larger cages in massive industrial facilities with no outdoor access.

Pasture Raised Eggs vs. Free Range Eggs

As for the difference between free range and pasture raised eggs, they are both excellent standards; provided that they are certified by a credible 3rd party, such as Certified Humane, as ours are. Beyond that, our firm belief is that the amount of space our hens have is more than sufficient. You can see that in all of the photos of our family farms, where the hens rarely cover more than a small fraction of our substantial pastures.

History of Pasture Raised Standards

The much larger space requirement for Pasture Raised actually originates from a British soil management standard defined in the 1940s that was based on rotational grazing needs. In other words, the amount of space per hen was not based on having enough for the hens to be comfortable, but how much you need if you are moving flocks from pasture to pasture.

The idea was to ensure viable grass and soil for other crops or animals after the hens had been on it for a period of time. So the space requirement had nothing to do with animal welfare.

Despite this, it was adopted by the two primary certifiers in the U.S. as the “Pasture Raised” standard. And interestingly, the standard allows for “rotational fencing” meaning that even if they claim 108 sq. ft. per hen, that is the undivided total, not what is available to a hen on any given day.

More space is great. We applaud responsible egg farming at whatever scale. But the more space you use the higher your prices. One only has to look at the price of farmland to know this.

Pasture Raised Eggs vs. Organic Eggs

It’s important to not confuse Pasture Raised eggs with Organic eggs either. They are entirely different things. Laying hens, including Pasture Raised hens, do not get their primary source of nutrition from foraging. It comes from their feed, which is either organic, or it’s not. There are many Pasture Raised Eggs that are not organic as they are fed conventional feed that was grown with pesticides and herbicides.

Our Free Range Organic Eggs

At Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs, we don’t see a meaningful difference in animal welfare between these two excellent standards, so we choose to maintain the Free Range standard and sell our Organic eggs for a bit less money. If you prefer to buy Pasture Raised eggs instead, we are absolutely fine with that. Just know that when you choose our Organic, Certified Humane, Free Range Eggs, you are guaranteed that you are getting an egg laid by a hen that has an exceptionally humane existence.

Excuse Me, Why Do ‘Medium’ Eggs Exist?

In an article published by bonappetit.com Alex Beggs explains why medium eggs exist.

“So I called up Jesse LaFlamme, the chief executive farmer of Pete and Gerry’s organic eggs. Yes, I too was disappointed his name was neither Pete nor Gerry. (Okay, Gerry is Jesse’s father). He told me that medium eggs are typically from younger hens. They’re the hen’s first round, so to speak, so they’re smaller and have a thicker shell. He even thinks they might have a tastier yolk, but he admits, “that might be in my head.” Things get a bit scrambled in there. Too much? Sorry.”

Read Full Article>>

How Big Food Wants the FDA to Define “Healthy”

A recent article published by vitals.lifehacker.com explains how any food companies find the FDA’s definition of “healthy” to be out dated and are pushing for them to redefine what healthy really means, which is good news for the egg industry.

Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs: “As the owner [of] Pete & Gerry’s Organics LLC, a Certified Humane, free-range, network of small family farms, it’s not often that I see eye to eye with the [United Egg Producers], as we disagree on farming practices. Where we do agree is that eggs are a very healthy food.”

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The 7 Best Clean Dairy and Dairy-Free Products

Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs was named in one of the 7 Best Clean Dairy and Dairy-Free Products by cleaneatingmag.com.

“These top-quality, grade-A eggs come from free-range, certified-humane hens fed with 100% organic feed. $6, peteandgerrys.com for where to buy.”

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Organic’s New Animal Welfare Standards Are In Jeopardy

A recent article on forbes.com explains that the new organic welfare standards my be in jeopardy as the USDA announced important amendments to its animal welfare standards for organic livestock and poultry.

“Most companies operating under the USDA organic logo are also in favour of these new standards. Perdue Farms, the largest broiler chicken producer in America, supports the new standards as they plan to expand their organic business in the coming years. Pete & Gerry’s, the largest organic egg producer in the US, is already in compliance with the new rules.”

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How Pete & Gerry’s cage-free eggs are a model for other small farmers

In a recent article Tonya Garcia of marketwatch.com explains how Pete and Gerry’s cage free eggs can be a good model for other business to follow.

“In addition to providing customers with high-quality eggs, according to Laflamme, Pete & Gerry’s wants to provide its small farmers with a livelihood, which has become increasingly difficult in the face of jumbo-sized agricultural companies. (Executives at Monroe, N.H.-based Pete & Gerry’s also express a desire to bring back a way of farming that’s focused on the animals and the environment.)”

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Sunny Side Up: Pete and Gerry’s Is Country’s Top Organic Egg Brand

In an article published by Yahoo.com, discusses that Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs are now officially the #1 selling organic egg brand in the country.

“The fastest growing major brand in the organic egg category, sales for Pete and Gerry’s have grown over 30% per year for the last decade and over 50% annually for the last two years. The first egg producer in the world to achieve Certified B-Corporation status, Pete and Gerry’s Certified Humane, Free Range eggs have grown as consumer demand for more ethically sourced eggs has driven the category.”

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New Hampshire is going to the hens

In an article posted by wmur.com, Paula Tracy explains how small farms had been going out of business in the 1950’s due to big grocery stores buying from large farms. However, now small farms are making a comeback and farmer Tom Giovagnoli’ssuccess is a great example of just that.

“Farmer Tom Giovagnoli, of Manchester, and his sons, Andy and Eric, moved their primary farming operation to a 200-acre property in Boscawen.

The town, they said, is very farm-friendly.

They now produce eggs for Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs, of Monroe.”

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Getting the Girls Outside – Our Outdoor Access Policy

About a decade ago, we made the decision to stop growing our home farm here in New Hampshire to meet the rising demand for our eggs and to instead partner with dozens of small, family farms that need a market for their organic, free range eggs. That was a great decision, for many, many reasons that I’ve touched on in this blog, but it is also considerably more complex than just building more barns on our property. These are independent farms, spread across the country. So it is vital that we have a great relationship with them to ensure that our high standards of quality and humane animal care are never compromised.

One of the ways we do that is by having an Outdoor Access Policy that each farmer agrees to adhere to. Why? Well here’s a little fact you may not know. It’s much safer and easier for a farmer, even conscientious ones like ours are, to keep their hens inside the barns. The flock represents their family’s livelihood, and without their flock, and the eggs they lay, that livelihood could disappear. So naturally, they want to protect it. And while the pasture is something hens clearly enjoy, it’s not as safe as being inside. Threats include predators like foxes and weasels, Avian Influenza from passing migratory foul, cold weather, and even rain and standing water. Hens are a bit like kids, they don’t always know what is good for them and can easily become sick by too much exposure to chilly, cold weather or rain. On top of all that, the farmers want them to learn to lay their eggs in the nesting boxes inside, otherwise, the labor to collect the eggs becomes untenable. So for all these reasons, it can be tempting to keep the girls inside. Most of our farmers enjoy seeing their hens in pasture every day so much, they don’t need to be encouraged to open up the doors, but to make absolutely sure that all our flocks are getting the same humane treatment, we have our policy.

Some of the stipulations include:

  • If the temperature is below 45 or above 93 degrees Fahrenheit, we recommend keeping the hens inside.
  • If there is rain, snow or standing water, we recommend keeping them inside until it clears.
  • During the short period when the hens are laying their first eggs, the farmers need to train them to lay in nests to ensure they do not lay eggs outside.
  • During high-risk periods where a disease like Avian Influenza is a known hazard for that area, in consultation with our team of experts, we may request that they keep the flock inside.
  • Lay times – most of our hens become accustomed to laying in the morning hours. In order to accommodate laying in nest boxes rather than pasture, they may keep the flock inside during the morning lay hours.

They must record their decisions and any exceptions to normal outdoor access due to the above conditions in log books that our auditors can review each week.

This is one of the many ways we are working to help restore human-scale agriculture back to a country with 320 million mouths to feed. It’s a balance between doing everything we can to help the farmers be successful and reduce their risk, while at the same time ensuring that we’re farming in a way that is moral and responsible.

Why We Are Free Range and Not Pastured Raised

At Pete & Gerry’s, we recognize that the egg aisle is a confusing place.  That’s why we hope to earn your trust so that instead of having to understand every industry term out there like cage-free, free-range, or pasture-raised, you can simply reach for our package with confidence, because you know we’re doing the right thing for hens, farmers, and for your family. My family has been raising chickens for three decades and have the expertise that comes from doing something for a long time and constantly improving on it as you go. That makes our company pretty unique in the egg industry. We hope that our customers discover that we care about our hens so much that if there was a better way to raise them —­ we’d be the first ones doing it.

For many decades, the egg aisle has been almost entirely caged eggs coming from hens living indescribable lives. Finally, after years of advocacy and the growing awareness of consumers about this barbaric form of agriculture, things are beginning to change. We expect that caged eggs will be a thing of the past within the next 10 years. That’s great news for chickens, and for all of us. But, it also means that there will now be lots of less scrupulous companies trying to jump on the bandwagon. In most cases, this will be the former caged producers now producing “cage-free” eggs, but essentially using the same industrial approach they used in the past. It will represent a marginal improvement in hen welfare, because they will finally be able to move around. But the facilities where they are raised will in no way represent what a consumer would consider to be a farm in terms of scale, crowding, cleanliness, or transparency.

On the other side, there is also a group of companies competing to persuade customers that our Certified Humane Free Range standard, which you can read about here, is somehow not sufficient or adequately humane.

Outdoor Space Isn’t An Arms Race

The Certified Humane Free Range standard was developed by scientists and animal welfare experts. It calls for 2 sq. ft. of outdoor access on grass per hen. Now, this may not sound like much if you imagine a bunch of hens all occupying their own little 2’ X 2’ patch of grass. However, it’s important to note that this is just an average over a huge flock, and that not all of the hens use the pasture space at the same time. Not even close. Hens are actually a lot like people in this regard. Whether it’s cool outside, hot, or a delightful 72 degrees, many of them would simply prefer to be inside. It’s safe, comfortable, cool in the summer, warm in the winter, and there’s fresh water and feed. As a company, we don’t force hens to go outside. We give them ample ways to access the outdoors, and then let the girls decide. If you spend time watching them, you will see a steady stream of hens entering and exiting the barns. At any given point in time, the hens that are outside have far more than 2 sq. ft. apiece. And, they are very social birds, so while they don’t wish to be crammed into giant warehouses, or tiny cages, they do want to huddle into little groups and cliques to cluck about whatever is on their minds. So there is always more grass and dirt areas open than occupied.

Pasture Raised brands are advertising that they offer from 35 to 108 sq. ft. per hen and suggesting that 2 sq. ft. is insufficient. More is not better in this case. More is just more. And it costs the farmers more to own and maintain that extra space for no discernible purpose. Agricultural land is scarce and expensive, so forcing small farm families to operate and maintain an excess of it just to brag about how much square footage each hen gets seems insincere and gratuitous to us.

There is a category of very small farms that can make the larger space work economically. But those are typically mixed use, hobby-style, micro farms that exist in a completely separate economic climate, selling to farmers’ markets, CSAs, and to their local area at considerably higher prices. Mainstream grocery distribution requires a higher level of efficiency in order to even get on the shelf. So we support this other style of farm wholeheartedly, just as we support backyard chicken coops, but they are a very small piece of the larger change we seek.

First we ask ourselves: What is right for the hens? We believe that we understand that better than anyone in the industry, and we follow the independently audited standard set by Humane Farm Animal Care for Free Range. Second, we ensure to do what is best for our farmers, and that means helping them raise hens humanely without undue costs. This allows us to deliver great eggs to our consumers at a reasonable price

It is an exciting time to be in the business of producing humane, ethical, organic eggs. In my lifetime, I have not seen the industry change this dramatically or quickly. Over the next year, we believe many more consumers will begin to decide what they think a reasonable egg farm should look like. We believe that a small family farm producing to the Certified Humane Free Range standard is the best way to meet our country’s egg demands in a humane, sustainable way. We don’t believe that means there is no such thing as too much space for hens, and we’re pretty sure the hens don’t either. So we will continue to try to balance the needs of hens, our farmers, and our loyal customers as best we can.

Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs not affected by egg recall!

Over 200 million eggs have been recalled recently by another company due to a concern over Salmonella stemming from a single Rose Acre Farms location in North Carolina.

None of our eggs are part of this recall as we would never produce eggs on a factory farm of that size or style. If you’re concerned about eggs you purchased recently, see what brands have been recalled.

Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs are produced responsibly and safely on small family farms. Learn more about why our eggs are different.